Part One Hundred Eight
"Marriage, thy name is
depression. White dresses bring
black thoughts as years pass."
"Stars, Padmé, did you write this?" Anakin held the crumpled cocktail napkin in two fingers. The smeared writing was barely legible and the napkin was soaked with orange Namana liquor on one end and what might have been tears at the other.
Padmé's stomach burbled at Anakin's too-loud voice. She hadn't had a male around her in the morning in quite some time, and their forcefulness now was unwelcome. She drew her hair over her eyes to shade them from the morning sun. Too early to talk. I need one of Ommané's Namana Neuronumb pick-me-ups. But she was not entirely without strength and managed to sit up in the bed, lowering her head to her drawn-up knees. "No. Ommané. She has a low opinion of the married state."
"I'm not surprised. She's only seventeen. Great commitments like marriage scare her. I know they did me when I was seventeen." Except commitments to Obi-Wan and the Order. The Force isn't a commitment; it's more like breathing regularly, no thought required at all. He refastened his mechno-arm, not noticing how the small tssh sound made Padmé flinch or how she looked more nauseated than before when he flexed it to reseat the connections firmly. "Aren't you getting dressed? The sun has been up for half an hour already." His morning meditation had gone well. All things disturbing the Force around his own presence, so tumultuous lately, had smoothed considerably, like the eye of a storm had already passed him, and only the smaller outlying gusts remained.
Padmé peered out through her hair and noticed that Anakin's expression wore a resemblance to Obi-Wan's more mature Jedi equanimity. He is more like Obi-Wan than he knows. And less like the boy I married. Padmé forced herself to think of the changes coming up in her life. Palpatine's death, the revelation of his true Sith nature to a select few outside the Jedi, the opening of his Chancellor position to Bail and her own possible appointment by him to the Vice-Chancellorship would rock her personal speederboat, and anything not secured with lanyards of durasteel would fly overboard. She wondered which valuables she would secure and which she would allow to turn into jetsam. "Anakin, it's early. I've been going out at night, remember? My handmaidens and I" --- have a tremendous time listening to ColdCuts and getting to know the group much better by following their gigs --- "hit several nightspots nearly every outing and I'm, I'm having enjoyable evenings. You did say to have fun when you're not around. I have been."
Anakin usually pulled on the minimal amount of clothing for modesty when he meditated and left the rest for afterwards. The boots' fastenings gave him trouble this morning and Anakin sat on the bed and bent far over, his muscled back limned in curves of shadow that Padmé remembered liking to trace. She reached out to touch his scapula, but he finished with the recalcitrant buckles and stood up, grabbing his tunics and belt from the vanity stool and donning them with the ease of over a decade's practice. The moment passed. I always did like fast. Even for something like this. Padmé resigned herself to dragging along all day in fatigue and put on her foundation garment, wishing for Ommané's quick helping hands. By the time she had on her primary under-robe, her nerves jangled and by the time she sat at the vanity, ready for her makeup and jewelry, she was nearly trembling. She looked at herself in the mirror and didn't know or much like the woman who looked back.
My wife. I think I'll look her over. To remind myself of a marriage that's fading. It unnerved Anakin to see Padmé in fear of her own husband. Didn't she know of the Jedi code? He knew she did. "There is no emotion, there is peace." While he had problems with it many times himself, Padmé had proven remarkably strong and Jedi-like in the beast arena, while rescuing Obi-Wan, and surviving the kouhuns' sneak attack. It hadn't all been bravado, had it? No. She was truly strong, and now she was truly afraid. He caressed with his eyes the curves that were now covered by a septsilk sheath of flaming red, cut on the bias to form a clinging garment with a ruffled neckline. She was perfectly proportioned. It galled him to think of Palpatine's, or Organa's, or someone else's paws on her beauty. Hang on, Anakin. It must be someone she knows, at least; she wouldn't have joined one of those sex clubs, would she? New partner every time, chat each other up for three minutes, move along at the gong? Pick out the most promising partner? "Padmé."
"I won't hurt you. I know you're unhappy with me." On Trow, he had wondered if she would hate him when she saw him again for what he and Obi-Wan had done to become closer. This didn't feel like hate, but what else could he call it? "You don't have to be afraid. Obi-Wan and I are together. I won't stand in your way if you want a divorce."
Padmé's hands shook in relief and she dropped a suspensa earring, its tempered metal flexing enough to make it bounce far under the bed. "Kriff!" Talk, Padmé, talk. You'll explode otherwise.
Anakin bent down on one knee to rummage under the bed. He swept his mechno-hand over the unseen space, thumbing his pinkie's first knuckle to activate the magnetization bar in it. After a moment, he pulled out his arm.
Living a lie isn't even a little fun anymore. Padmé's husband held up her dropped earring in one hand and a red stiletto pump in the other. "Whose shoe?"
"Ommané's. She's been my closet, uh, closest, helper since you've been away so much." Anakin wasn't stupid; he knew she hadn't warmed to him as she had before his return from Trow. Kriff again.
Anakin put the shoe on the floor under the vanity and stood behind Padmé, refastening her earring by driving the long coppery suspensa shank through the single hole in her lobe. He fingered a curl before seductively draping it to half-conceal her ear. Anakin adjusted the curl on the other side to match, not meeting Padmé's eyes in the mirror, but sensing that she was regarding him apprehensively. And I was worried that she was lonely. This may be why she never went down on me. Or maybe not. "Ommané." That's the one with the haircolor like mine, looks around slyly even when there's nothing to look at.
Out with it. "Yes, Anakin, she sleeps here occasionally. Her quarters aren't as spacious and when I need her at night she's right there."
"We can't go on being married, Padmé, it's, it's" --- "Breaking News: Forbidden Love Story Of Jedi Monk And Overachieving Politician Reaches Tawdry End! Both Parties Cheat In Same-Sex Scandal! Force Admits Nothing Despite Repeated Inquiries." But it isn't like that, it isn't, it isn't --- "about sex, isn't it. Is she better in bed than me?"
Yes. "No, but she's here and you're not, Anakin. We have similar backgrounds, similar goals, we enjoy scramball matches" --- but she doesn't ever attend my synchronized swimming competitions except in her professional capacity --- "she's a better match in height --- "
"What?" He had managed to complete three of the four parts of his invented Telling-Upsetting-News kata with her. He and Padmé were breaking up, but the more she spoke, the more he knew he would not be able to cheer her on in her new endeavors as he had cheered on the scramball team he had left in midseason. This would be a kata he'd never complete, but he didn't care now. If there were a Merit Bead for this kata, he imagined it to be deepest black.
"Yes, well, with you sometimes I get a crick in my neck and --- "
"That's enough," Anakin said roughly. This wasn't his angel talking anymore; this was more like those angels on the moons of Iego who smiled but had pointed teeth to shred and maim.
"Anakin. I've grown in a different direction and so have you, with Obi-Wan. I'll admit the thought of you two together fascinates me, but I've had months to think about my place in all this and it's time for us both to move on. So you do what the Force wants and I'll do what I want. Threepio and Artoo can be mindwiped about our marriage if it's still in their circuits and it's over for us both." No kids. No home to break up, really. We'll go our separate ways. "I'm keeping the droids, by the way."
"And I suppose that I get visitation rights?" I made Threepio. To help Mom. This isn't over yet, Padmé.
"Of course. And you can handle the wipes, too. You're the one to do it. And I never did thank you properly for uncovering Palpatine's dirty scheme. Shall we call things even with a farewell fuck?" Padmé thought it was a generous offer. She might even miss having sex with him, for a while, anyway.
The word jolted the room, the Force whispered 'no' and Anakin agreed. That night as he lay achingly hard next to an exhausted, snoring Obi-Wan in their new four-poster Phlog-sized bed, Anakin stared through the darkness at their ceiling, which rolled back to show in flickering blue the steeply-arched bridge in his original dream on Trow. He'd shared a bed platonically with Master that night, too. From his firm stance on his and Obi-Wan's side of the babbling stream, he spied across the way two tiny amorphous possibilities of life before they winked out as if they had never been. The fog shrouding the necessity of their birth lifted, leaving the Room of One Thousand Fountains soothingly humid with a light mist, as it always had looked and now always would look. The bridge would have led him to the dark side through some desperate need to save ... dear ones ... he squinted, but couldn't see who ... and it was only Obi-Wan's forceful pushes down the canted steps keeping him in the Light. I was wrong the first time that I interpreted it; it's like my polarity has been reversed. All his anger, doubt, and disappointment over his and his Master's and even Padmé's actions disappeared. Maturity, painful maturity, cracked his heart, and as he took himself in hand, he knew that he could live with infinite yearning.
THE RIVER FINISHED.
I would like to thank the reader/reviewers, who made my ... months, really, from February to June 2007. For each one of you, a bubble from Gitchy.OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOo